Analysis of the winners
What do the Smarta 100 have in common?
When we set out on our search for the Smarta 100 it was with the
intention of capturing a snapshot of the small businesses which, in
their individual ways, make up 99% of Britain's enterprises and
contribute over half of its GDP.
We knew that even without attempting to find the smartest, most
creative companies, the Smarta 100 would be a cross section of
diverse sectors, approaches, locations and backgrounds - and we
were neither wrong nor disappointed.
Indeed, our pursuit of companies which have excelled at making
themselves unique within their sectors and regions, indispensible
to their customers and remarkable enough to gain our attention,
pretty much answers and renders redundant the question 'what do
they have in common?' all in one go.
The Smarta 100 are a collection of the finest small and emerging
businesses in Britain, individually defined in their own
carefully-sculpted identities, run by people who've passionately
laboured over establishing these distinctions.
As a result, it's our Smarta 100 founders we've chosen to
So who are the Smarta 100 founders?
Well we'd be labouring the point to emphasise their differences,
so let's focus on their similarities.
The average Smarta 100 founder is in their mid-30s and educated
to degree level. Yet even here the stats can deceive. While the
majority did, 37% of founders didn't go to university. 14% don't
have qualifications above GCSE level, with half of those having
none at all.
There was a high propensity for industry-specific
While the reasons for starting a business are rarely mutually
exclusive and most of the founders indeed cited multiple reasons,
just 15% identified making money as a key driver. Instead, the
desire to realise an idea was a driving force for 62%, with the
freedom of being your own boss inspiring 42%.
Richard Branson, James Dyson, Steve Jobs are the entrepreneurs
they admire most and they aspire to be the next Apple, Virgin,
innocent drinks and Google.
Think big, but start small
While almost all of the Smarta 100 have ambitions to grow their
businesses and the majority plan to exit within 2-3 years, almost
all of our companies starting out from humble beginnings.
More than half still don't have an office, with two thirds based
at home and the rest spend most of their day working on the move
out of business clubs and coffee shops.
Like-wise, while the national media, political world and lobby
groups focus on the lending prolificacy of the banks, the Smarta
100 have been busy just getting on with it, either funding
themselves or finding money elsewhere.
Just 14% have taken a bank loan. Over half funded their
businesses out of their own savings. Private investment accounting
for 16% of start-up capital, 13% turned to credit cards, while the
rest came from a collection of redundancy pay-outs, grants and
Early technology adopters
Laptops, iPhones and BlackBerrys took a clean sweep of the items
our Smarta 100 founders couldn't live without, while three quarters
are already using social networks to promote their businesses.
They're not just tentatively playing either, over a third use
Twitter several times a day, with one in 10 tweeting more than once
Only 14% of our founders now read a daily newspaper, instead
picking up their news from TV and a variety of online sources (yes,
including social networks).
Unless they were trying to impress, the Smarta 100 founders
believe a healthy body results in a healthy business. Over half
exercise more than once a week, with 15% squeezing a work-out into
their daily routine, while porridge appears to be the Smarta 100
founders' breakfast of choice.
That said, they average just 6.7 hours sleep a night with many
subscribing to a positively Thatcher-like sub-5 hours. With 60%
working in excess of 60 hours a week and a fair number pushing 80
to 90, it's no surprise the porridge is more than often accompanied
It seems while the Smarta 100 founders display passion in almost
every aspect of their working lives, they subscribe to the average
Joe's apathy when it comes to politics. For the record, 38% percent
intent to vote Conservative, just 13% Labour but 45% think even a
change of government would have very little effect on their